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Has Monty Bennett Hoisted Himself on His Own Petard?

A lawsuit alleges that he broke SEC rules with his Dallas Express.
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Photo by Tim Rogers

A lawsuit was filed yesterday against Monty Bennett and certain members of the board that oversees his hotel company. It concerns a proxy fight and an out-of-state guy named Jason Aintabi who, through a company called Blackwells, owns shares in Bennett’s hotel operation and would like to have other shareholders vote on board members he has nominated. Unless you’re Robert Ritchie or K. Virginia Burke DeBeer, the two local Vinson & Elkins lawyers who represent Aintabi, most of this lawsuit is pretty dry stuff—even if the named defendants include Bennett allies and board members Candy Evans, of Candy’s Dirt fame; Stefani Carter, the former Texas state rep who currently suckles at Bennett’s REIT; and Matt Rinaldi, whose name has been tied to White supremacists.

Boring stuff.

But then there’s the part in the lawsuit about how Bennett—a Capitol riot conspiracist and noted wearer of ill-fitting suits—allegedly used his nonprofit media outlet, the Dallas Express, to influence shareholders in this fight. As in:

[Bennett’s company] has unlawfully failed to disclose to the SEC and the public that an undisclosed participant in its proxy campaign is a “newspaper” called The Dallas Express. Mr. Bennett finances and publishes The Dallas Express. Actual journalists have characterized The Dallas Express as a “propaganda site.” From November 2023 to January 2024, The Dallas Express ran a series of five articles about Blackwells and Jason Aintabi, who is Blackwells’ Chief Investment Officer. Those articles included a number of false and misleading claims about Blackwells and Mr. Aintabi, and were clearly published at Mr. Bennett’s behest with the intent of influencing the Company’s shareholders and directors with respect to a proxy contest that Mr. Bennett knew was impending. Mr. Bennett’s efforts to leverage The Dallas Express as his personal mouthpiece during the proxy fight are consistent with his long-running pattern of engaging in “pay-to-play” journalism, which was previously the subject of a 2020 article in The New York Times. The Company’s failure to disclose The Dallas Express as a proxy participant is a plain violation of the Exchange Act, as are The Dallas Express’s numerous false and misleading statements in the hit pieces it published against Mr. Aintabi. 

Which of course makes one wonder what the plaintiff means when he says Bennett finances the Dallas Express. The lawsuit clarifies:

On information and belief, The Dallas Express is an unprofitable enterprise that is being propped up by Mr. Bennett. In 2022, The Dallas Express had advertising revenues of approximately $24,000 and expenses of approximately $3 million. In the last two years, Mr. Bennett has made over $3.4 million in “donations” to The Dallas Express

So all of that is interesting, no? Did Bennett launch a media outlet with the stated ideals of being unbiased and fair and fact based, but then did he break SEC rules as he used it to slag his enemies? That would be something.

Before I let you go, I feel compelled to mention that after Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson received favorable coverage from the Dallas Express, he hired one of its writers to be a communications and policy coordinator.

Author

Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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